What you'll need
- Bucket of hot water and dishwashing soap
- Bike degreaser & lubricant
- Specially formulated bike cleaner
- Rubber gloves
- A cloth
- A hard-bristled brush
You can purchase specialized products at your local bike shop or from online retailers.
Professionals recommend always hosing down your bicycle and applying a small amount of lubricant to the chain after each ride. Let’s be honest – how many of us do that every time? After a long ride, bike cleaning is the last thing on our to-do list – and besides, bikes are supposed to have a bit of dirt on them, right? Each bit of caked-on mud is a memento of an adventure, but the truth is that too much dirt can stop your bike from working properly. Bike cleaning doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming, though – and regular maintenance can really help increase your bike’s lifespan and reduce the risk of damage. Here are some essentials that every rider should have in a bike cleaning kit:
Bike cleaner for the frame
Cleaning the frame of your bike is so quick and easy – and you don’t even need a special bike cleaner! All you really need is a bucket filled with hot water and regular dishwashing soap. And, in terms of water, the hotter the better, so you’ll want to make sure you have a good pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands. When it comes to soap, it’s a case of the more suds the better, so be sure to give your mixture a vigorous stir beforehand. Use a cloth to wipe down all areas of the frame. You should see that the hot water is able to tackle the greasy, oily parts of your bike, while the soap softens mud and dirt, making it easy to wipe away. If you get grease stains on your clothes in the process, try these tips to remove them.
Bicycle chain cleaner & bike degreaser
Bicycle chains are a little trickier to tackle because they require a bike degreaser and lubricant. These two products are essential to keep the chain running smoothly, and will prevent the links from becoming stuck. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning your bicycle chain and making it work like new:
- Firstly, use a hose to gently wash off any loose dirt, mud, and dust. Use with a soft spray, rather than a pressure washer, as the powerful blast could dislodge some of the mechanism.
- Set the gears so the chain is on the largest setting to give you better access. You’ll want to set the front chain to the highest gear and the back chain to the lowest.
- Using hot water and a bike cleaning product, scrub the chain using a hard-bristled brush – even an old toothbrush will do the trick. Ensure you get between all the links. You should see a noticeable difference in the look of the chain after this.
- Apply a bike degreaser to the chain, getting it in between all the links. The bike degreaser will get rid of any oily residue that the soap and water couldn’t, and will help the chain to move smoothly.
- Finally, apply a lubricant to keep the chain running well. Ensure the chain is clean and dry (give it a wipe with a cloth to remove any remaining bike degreaser) and apply a small amount of lubricant. Too little, and the chain will be susceptible to rust; too much and the excess oils will pick up all sorts of dirt from the floor – it’s important to read the recommendations on the bottle.
Looking after bike cables
Bike cleaning doesn’t just include the frame and the chain; the cables are an important aspect to consider, too. Again, use some bike degreaser, wipe the cables with a cloth, and then apply a thick layer of lubricant. The best way to do this is to massage the lubricant into the cables, allowing it to soak in to each individual fibre. This is one part of bike cleaning that really benefits from a little extra time.
Should you polish your bike?
So many bike owners include a polishing product as part of their bike cleaning kit, as it keeps bikes looking sparkling, shiny, and new. But should you really be polishing your bike? Professionals claim that polish is not really a good bike cleaner, and could actually cause damage. The two parts of the bike most often polished are the saddle and the wheels, but neither of these is advised. Polishing the saddle might make your bike look good, but it could cause you to slip. And polish that transfers from the wheels onto the tyre rims could reduce the effectiveness of your brakes. Stick to the above methods of bike cleaning and forget about the rest.